High nitrate concentrations have been found in drinking water wells near Fort Macleod. The Canadian drinking water guideline for nitrate has been set at 10 mg/L for people and 100 mg/L for cattle. Some studies indicate more than 20 mg/L nitrate is potentially harmful for cattle over the long term.

OWC contracted Joan Rodvang of LandWise Inc. to complete a study from February 2013 to Fall 2014 to determine the source of the nitrate and develop recommendations to improve drinking water quality for local residents. Data collection and analysis indicated that some of the nitrate is natural, generally at deeper depths because of the geology of the region, and some is human caused contamination, generally at shallower depths.

Nitrate can be removed from drinking water using reverse osmosis or ion exchange resins, but this can be challenging and expensive so the most important recommendation is prevention. Much of the area is highly vulnerable to contamination from surface sources and so agricultural best management practices are critical, such as careful storage, timing and application of fertilizers.

Results were presented to local residents in March 2015 at the Ardenville Hall.

Thank you to the Government of Alberta for providing funding for the project and to Joan Rodvang, Landwise Inc., who completed the study and went above and beyond the contract to produce a very thorough report.